“You are not going to see me go on like some hibernation where I’m like saying ‘oh woe is me,’” DeSantis said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said publicly that he’s refocused on his job as governor after spending eight months campaigning for president. | Jamie Kelter Davis for POLITICO

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Gov. Ron DeSantis may be done with the presidential race. But he’s not done with Florida, and he’s out to prove it.

In recent days, DeSantis has held press conferences ripping into President Joe Biden, Congress and Washington insiders. He’s weighed in on legislative battles underway in Tallahassee. The Republican governor even offered to send 1,000 troops to the southern border, all as he aims to resurrect his image and influence in his home state.

It all echoes early 2023, when DeSantis was gearing up for his much-anticipated 2024 bid against former President Donald Trump and other GOP candidates for president. Now less than two weeks after he returned to Florida as a failed White House aspirant, people within the DeSantis orbit say the governor is reminding Floridians that he’s still the state’s top official — while looking to his political future.

“This guy is never going to let the grass grow under his feet,” said longtime supporter and fundraiser Nick Iarossi. “He’s hit the ground running.”

DeSantis himself has said publicly that he’s refocused on his job as governor after spending eight months campaigning for president. He still has nearly three years left in the role before he’s termed out of office.

“You are not going to see me go on like some hibernation where I’m like saying ‘oh woe is me,’” DeSantis said during a press conference he held in Miami Beach this week. “That’s just not how I am.”

The moves by DeSantis come following signs that his clout in Florida had ebbed. He was unable to sway legislative leaders to consider a bill that would have opened the door for a casino in Miami Beach. Florida still has an affordability crisis and its property insurance market remains in turmoil — a fact that even Trump used against the governor.

Questions remain over DeSantis’ political future. Several supporters granted anonymity to speak candidly about the governor said they expect him to run for president again and predict he will start raising money for state-level political activities later in the year. He’s also called dozens of donors to thank them for their help — a surprising move for a governor not known for his people skills.

But with 2028 four years away, those who have talked to DeSantis since he left the race say he’s prioritizing Florida.

“He’s focused on being governor,” said Peter Collins, a co-founder and managing principal of Tampa-based Forge Capital Partners, who donated $20,000 to Fight Right — a super PAC that aided DeSantis’ run.

One former campaign operative added that people shouldn’t make assumptions about his recent actions. “I don’t see any signs that he is building a presidential campaign in waiting whatsoever,” said the operative, who was granted anonymity to speak about the governor.

DeSantis officially began his campaign for president in May of last year and spent months on the road as he barnstormed in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He tried to sell GOP voters on the idea that he was an accomplished Republican who won a big reelection victory and could beat Biden in November. Yet his campaign had multiple tactical and strategic missteps along the way. He also lost traction among Republicans who instead rallied to Donald Trump even as criminal indictments piled up against the former president.

In the two weeks since DeSantis’ bid for president collapsed, he has revved up his official side activities.

DeSantis called on Florida legislators to back resolutions for four federal constitutional amendments, including ones that create congressional term limits. The governor has also thrown his support behind contentious bills lawmakers are moving through this year’s legislative session, including one that would block cities and counties from removing Confederate memorials. He single-handedly derailed a top priority of GOP Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis when he threatened to veto a Patronis-backed bill to use taxpayer money to help pay Trump’s legal fees.

“I mean, we’ve probably done more than any governor in the country just in the last couple of weeks and that’s, I think that’s what people expect,” said DeSantis during an event he held Tuesday in central Florida to highlight programs to assist manatees.

DeSantis has also been a bit more relaxed at times since returning to Florida and posted social media videos that seem more personable, such as one featuring his son predicting (correctly) who would wind up playing in this week’s Super Bowl.

To his Democratic critics, DeSantis’ recent actions smack of desperation and a thirst to remain politically relevant at the national level.

“It seems kind of strange,” said state Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the leader of House Democrats. “There were hopes he would focus on issues relevant to Floridians. I think we have seen media events that seem to be very gimmicky, and very much in the context of political stunts that we came to expect of him when he was a presidential candidate.”

Source: Politico

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